Tales Of Uncle Bill Part 1
Tales Of Uncle Bill Part 1
by Chuck RitenouR
Fort Valley, Virginia was once a very rural and somewhat remote community. The valley between two mountain ranges is about 35 miles long. Passage Creek runs the entire length. My father, a Ritenour was the youngest of 14 children and his uncle Jake had 12 children. My mother was a Clem, the oldest with two sisters and a brother.There were two general stores at the crossroads midway up the valley. My grandfather, Alfred Clem owned the one which was located on the west side of the road leading over the mountain to Woodstock, Virginia. Most families living in Fort Valley at this time were related by blood or marriage and some by both. When I was a young boy living in Hagerstown, Maryland, I was sent to Fort Valley every summer. My father's family lived there as well as my mother's family. I spent most of the summer at my maternal and paternal grandparents, but every now and then I was allowed to spent a few days with Uncle Bill and Aunt Gladys. Bill and Gladys Johnson had two daughters, Diane and JoAnne and two boys, David and Mark. Diane was several years older than me and JoAnne was only older by a few months. David was two years younger and Mark a few years younger still. There was a small creek that ran several hundred feet in front of their old farm house. They had chickens and ginny hens running free in the yard and an old dog named Fuzzy.
My uncle Bill had been in World War Two. He had made several beach heads and still suffered a bit from post traumatic shock syndrom (though no one called it that back then). There were days he'd just sit at the kitchen table staring out the window at the garden while sipping moon shine made by another relative, Russ Clem.
Uncle Bill loved to hunt. He'd kill raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, deer, quail, pheasants and occasionally groundhogs all of which found their way to the supper table. To an eleven year old from "the city", he seemed like a combination of Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone with a bit of John Wayne thrown in for flavor. I readily admit that I enjoyed sampling all the unusual table fare. I guess you can take the boy out of the country, but not the country out of the boy.
Late one evening, after a day of staring out the kitchen window and sipping "shine" out of a grape jelly glass, uncle Bill sat up straight and began looking very intensely at the garden which was about one hundred feet from the house. He said, "one of you boys fetch my rifle from over there in the corner." Aunt Gladys got a worried look on her face and said, "now, Bill." Uncle Bill just kept looking hard at the garden as he got up and took the screen out of the window. "Shhhhhhhh, don't you see him? He's over there by the corn. That's fattest groundhog I've ever seen" There was no such thing as an unloaded gun in uncle Bills house and we all knew better than to touch one without his permission and supervision. That would be grounds for a serious ass whippin'. When I was a young boy I had received more than enough at the hands of my parents and relatives. I am no worse for it.
Uncle Bill took the loaded Army issue M1 rifle from nine year old David without taking his eyes off the target. You could have heard a pin drop if anyone had wanted to risk as ass whippin' to drop one. Uncle Bill stood leaning against the table for support and aimed out the window. "I can see his eyes shining from the porch light." he said as he squeezed off a shot.
"Got 'em. Did you see him jump and fall over dead" he asked with a huge smile on his face which had for the past twelve hours shown no emotion at all. Everyone in the room said yes and marvelled at his markmanship.
"David, go on out there and get him. We got us a whistlepig to skin. Let's have him for supper tomorrow, Gladys." Uncle Bill said as David and I ran out to the garden. When we got there, the groundhog had disappeared and in its place was David's old football with a huge hole in it. David said, " I ain't taking that in the house. Dad might whip my ass for leavin' my football outside." So I volunteered to take it in. I walked through the kitchen door holding the deflated football by two fingers. All uncle Bill said was "well, I'll be damned" and laughed. Aunt Gladys said,"well Bill, you skin it and I'll cook it, but I think its gonna be pretty tough."